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Post-WWII order on ‘brink of collapse’: Amnesty head

Amnesty International has been critical of Israel and its allies over the war against Hamas in Gaza
Amnesty International has been critical of Israel and its allies over the war against Hamas in Gaza - Copyright AFP -
Amnesty International has been critical of Israel and its allies over the war against Hamas in Gaza - Copyright AFP -
James PHEBY

Amnesty International said Wednesday that the post-World War II order was on the “brink of collapse”, threatened by bitter conflict on multiple fronts to the rapid and unregulated rise of artificial intelligence.

“Everything we’re witnessing over the last 12 months is indicating that the international global system is on the brink of collapse,” Amnesty’s secretary general Agnes Callamard told AFP as the group released its annual “State of the World’s Human Rights” report.

“In particular, over the last six months, the United States has shielded and protected the Israeli authorities against scrutiny for the multiple violations committed in Gaza,” she said.

“By using its veto against a much-needed ceasefire, the United States has emptied out the (United Nations) Security Council of what it should be doing.”

Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel that triggered the Gaza war resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,183 people in the Gaza Strip, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

The global rights monitor said that Hamas had carried out “horrific crimes” on Israeli communities bordering Gaza but that Israel had responded with “a campaign of collective punishment”.

“It is a campaign of deliberate, indiscriminate bombings of civilians and civilian infrastructure, of denial of humanitarian assistance and an engineered famine,” Callamard wrote in her foreword to the report.

“For millions the world over, Gaza now symbolises utter moral failure by many of the architects of the post-World War Two system,” she said.

Israel’s allies, including those arming them, were complicit, she said, lamenting a lack of action by international institutions and questioning whether postwar ideals of “never again” were now at an end.

– AI threat –

Other “powerful actors”, including Russia and China, are also “demonstrating a willingness to put at risk the entirety of the 1948 rule-based order”, Callamard warned.

The report documented “flagrant rule-breaking by Russian forces during their continued full-scale invasion of Ukraine… and the use of torture or other ill-treatment against prisoners of war”. 

China too had acted against international law, the rights group said, “by protecting the Myanmar military” despite its attacks against civilians.

“Urgent measures” were required “to revitalise and renew the international institutions intended to safeguard humanity”, Callamard said.

“What we are calling for is an urgent reform of the UN Security Council, in particular reform on the right of veto so that it cannot be used in situations of massive human rights violations,” she told AFP.

The rise of AI is also a cause for concern, “enabling pervasive erosions of rights… perpetuating racist policies” and “enabling spreading misinformation”, the report found.

Amnesty accused large tech firms of ignoring or minimising those threats “even in armed conflicts”. 

“Tech-outlaws and their rogue technologies” are being left to “freely roam the digital Wild West”, which the report said would likely accelerate human rights violations in 2024 — a year of several key elections, including for the US presidency. 

“In an increasingly precarious world, unregulated proliferation and deployment of technologies such as generative AI, facial recognition and spyware are poised to be a pernicious foe –- scaling up and supercharging violations of international law and human rights to exceptional levels,” Callamard said.

“During a landmark year of elections and in the face of the increasingly powerful anti-regulation lobby driven and financed by big tech actors, these rogue and unregulated technological advances pose an enormous threat to us all.”

She called on governments to “take robust legislative and regulatory steps to address the risks and harms caused by AI technologies and rein in big tech”.

The UK-based rights group also warned that political actors in many parts of the world were “ramping up their attacks on women, LGBTI people and marginalised communities”.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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